John XII

Pope from 955. He was the son of Alberic II of Spoleto, ruler of Rome, before whose death in 954 the nobles had to swear to elect his only son, Octavian, who was only eighteen. Called John, he was much given to vicious living, according to the historian Liutprand, bishop of Cremona. In 959 John tried to recover former papal lands from King Berengarius II and had to appeal for help from Otto I, who obligingly sent his army to Italy in 961. In return, Otto was crowned emperor in 962, and the archbishopric of Magdeburg and the bishopric of Merseburg were erected. Otto then issued the Privilegium Ottonianum, promising to make the pope temporal ruler of most of Italy, but with the provision that he recognize imperial suzerainty over the Papal States. Future popes were to take an oath of fealty to the emperor before consecration. Bitter strife between pope and emperor ensued; with increasing support Otto called a synod at Rome to accuse John of immorality. Deposition followed (962), and a Roman lay official was elected and consecrated Leo VIII. With Otto’s departure from Rome in 964, however, John returned and took revenge. Leo was deposed and all his actions canceled. Liutprand records that John’s death was sudden and scandalously mysterious.